Tucson Family Lawyers Helping Clients with Child Custody & Support

The family law attorneys at Benavidez Law Group, P.C. in Tucson have extensive experience handling child custody and support matters that arise during divorce, as well as paternity cases and adoptions. Continue reading to learn more about how child custody and support are determined in Arizona.

Child Custody

There are many options available to the parties and the judge when deciding child custody, including legal custody, physical custody, joint custody and joint physical custody. Legal custody is best defined as having the right and obligation to make legal decisions relating to the child, such as which school the child will attend, the selection of a doctor and medical treatment, and what religious instruction the child will receive. Physical custody is the right to have the child reside with you. In a divorce, one party can be designated the primary residential parent, while the other parent has parenting time, or both parents can share equal parenting time.

Arizona law provides an option for joint custody in certain circumstances, when it is in the best interests of the child. There can be joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. Joint legal custody requires the parents to discuss and agree upon the legal decisions relating to the child, and neither parent's rights are superior. If the parents agree to joint custody, they must prepare, sign and file a "Joint Parenting Plan," setting forth their agreements, the residential plan, and other areas of agreement relating to the child.

Joint physical custody is also known as equal parenting time. It is not as common as joint legal custody because it requires a high level of logistical coordination and cooperation between the parents. However, in some circumstances, it is feasible and in the best interests of the child.

Factors Impacting Custody Determinations in Arizona

The factors considered by a judge prior to deciding child custody are set out in Arizona law, and will vary in importance depending on the judge and the circumstances of the case. For example, the court may consider the following:

  • Wishes of the parent(s)
  • Wishes of the child
  • Interrelationships between the child and parent(s), siblings and others
  • Child's adjustment to home, school and community
  • Mental and physical health of the parties involved
  • Who has provided the primary care to the child in the past
  • Nature and extent of coercion and duress used by a parent in order to obtain custody
  • Domestic violence (if there has been domestic violence, this fact has great bearing on custody and may result in limited visitation for the person whom committed violence)

During the heat of divorce, many people think they should receive sole custody of the children, but you should seriously consider your children's long-term needs. If the judge has to decide on what custody and residential arrangement to impose, he or she will focus on the best interests of the children.

Child Support

Child support is intended to provide for the financial needs of children, including their housing, clothing, food and other living expenses. Usually, a child's non-custodial parent is ordered to pay support to the parent who has primary physical or residential custody. However, if there is a disparity between the parties' respective incomes, a parent with equal parenting time, or even one with primary parenting time, may be ordered to pay support to the other parent.

In Arizona, the amount of a child support award is based upon the combined gross income of both parents, using the following guidelines:

A percentage of the combined gross income is designated or allocated for the parties' minor children.
Each party must pay his or her respective share of that amount, with adjustments made to give each parent credit for separate payments for health insurance, tuition, child care and certain other expenses made on behalf of the children.
Adjustments to support are made to account for the amount of parenting time exercised by the paying parent.

All child support in Arizona must be paid by wage assignment, which is an Order sent by the court to the paying parent's employer. Based on the Order, the employer deducts the child support from the parent's gross income and sends it to the State Clearinghouse for distribution. The State then issues a check to the support recipient.

The Child Support Guidelines also address how certain other expenses and deductions for the children should be allocated or shared between the parents. For example, under the Guidelines, the parents will typically divide the tax deduction for the children in the same proportion as the percentage of support they provide under the guidelines. Therefore, if a parent makes 60% of the income and pays 60% of the support, he or she may take the deduction 60% of the time.

Some of these collateral issues can be very important, such as the payment of medical expenses for a child with special health needs, so be sure to consider all costs associated with the care and education of your child and discuss them with a family law attorney in detail. Failure to do so could result in an inadequate or inappropriate child support order.

Talk to an Experienced Child Custody & Support Lawyer in Tucson

Child custody and support are complex areas of family law, requiring the knowledge and expertise of a seasoned family law attorney. In Tucson, contact the Benavidez Law Group, P.C. to protect your rights and the best interests of your children.